Glasses and the absurdity of promoting the biological norm in birth or breastfeeding

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Vision is arguably the most important of our 5 senses.

It allows us to see a grain of salt, a mountain in the distance and everything in between. It is the key to game hunting, to precision manufacturing, to hitting a home run. It is 100% natural. All human beings are “designed” to see.

C-sections and formula are like glasses and contacts: widely necessary and lifesaving despite the biological “norm.”

Curiously, despite the centrality of vision to our existence and despite the fact that it is natural, the incidence of poor vision is extraordinarily high. Approximately 30% of Americans are nearsighted; approximately 30% of Americans are farsighted; an equal proportion of Americans suffer from astigmatism. These impairments of vision can occur alone and in combination. Indeed, there are many people over age 40 who are both nearsighted, farsighted and have astigmatism.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that even critical natural functions don’t work properly a large proportion of the time and that high failure rates are completely compatible with the survival of the species.

Now consider vision correction. Over 60% of Americans use glasses/contacts for vision correction.

Are people who need vision correction abnormal or unnatural? Of course not.

Are people who use glasses or contact lenses “giving in” to the inconvenience of not being able to see? That’s absurd.

Does a book written by someone wearing reading glasses have less merit than one written by someone with 20/20 vision? No.

Is a touchdown pass drilled to the receiver by a quarterback wearing contact lenses not really a touchdown? No.

If a nearsighted climber summits Mount Everest wearing glasses, is it a lesser achievement than if she had done the same thing without glasses? Absolutely not.

Why not? Because we judge achievements by the outcome, not the process. It makes no difference if someone needs vision correction to complete their activities or daily living or to fulfill their wildest dreams. The achievement is not marred by the need for vision correct.

And, importantly, 20/20 vision without glasses is not, in and of itself, an achievement.

Now consider childbirth.

It is critical to our existence, and women are “designed” to give birth. Curiously, despite the centrality of childbirth to our existence, and despite the fact that it is natural, the natural incidence of perinatal and maternal death is relatively high. It’s only a fraction as high as the incidence of faulty vision, but the death rates are far from trivial.

What does that tell us?

It tells us that even critical natural functions don’t work properly a large proportion of the time, and the obstetricians who point that out are not “pathologizing” birth, they’re simply stating a fact. Many women will need interventions (childbirth “correction,” if you will) to survive childbirth and for the baby to survive birth alive and healthy.

Are the births of women who need childbirth interventions abnormal or unnatural? Of course not.

Are women who choose pain relief in childbirth “giving in” to the pain? That’s absurd.

Is a baby born by C-section less intelligent, talented or valuable than a baby born by unmedicated vaginal delivery? No.

If a woman gives birth with every intervention known to man, is the result an “unnatural” or abnormal baby? No.

Is the birth of that baby any less joyous or worthy of celebration than the birth of a baby born by unmedicated vaginal birth? No.

Is the birth of that baby any less an achievement than the birth of a baby by unmedicated childbirth? Absolutely not.

Why not? Because we judge achievements by the outcome, not the process. It makes no difference whether a woman needs childbirth interventions. It is the baby that is the achievement, not the presence of absence of interventions.

The same arguments can be made about breastfeeding. Yes, it’s natural. Yes, women are “designed” to breastfeed. Nonetheless a substantial proportion of women and babies will have difficulty with breastfeeding.

Are women who don’t breastfeed abnormal or unnatural? No.

Are woman who choose to formula feed “giving in” to the difficulties. No.

Are babies nourished with formula any less intelligent, talented or valuable than babies nourished with breastmilk? Of course not.

Is raising that baby into a healthy happy child with formula any less of an achievement than doing the same with breastmilk? That’s absurd. The achievement is the healthy, happy baby, not the breastfeeding.

The bottom line is that a home run with vision correction is better than a strikeout without it. A healthy baby born with the assistance of a myriad of interventions is better than a sick or dead baby born without them. A healthy formula fed toddler is better than a stunted toddler who is breastfed.

Some women want to view unmedicated vaginal birth and breastfeeding as achievements, but that says more about them and their fragile self-esteem (or the source of their income as midwives and lactation consultants) than it says about childbirth or breastfeeding.

C-sections and formula are like glasses and contacts: widely necessary and lifesaving despite the biological “norm.”

  • FormerPhysicist

    I really can’t say how much I love this.